I have to come clean about something. For quite some time, or to be more precise since Sunday February 1st, 2004, I have held on to some rather acerbic feelings about Carolina Panther placekicker John Kasay. For the entire 2003 season John had picked himself up from a player who nearly lost his job in training camp to Shayne Graham to a man who kicked a perfect 50 yard FG to bring the Panthers within four points of the New England Patriots to end the first half of Superbowl XXXVIII. But all of that came to an end with 1:08 to go in that game in Houston. After Jake Delhomme throws a go ahead touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl late in the fourth quarter, John sends a weak kickoff to the right side of the field out of bounds resulting in a penalty that starts the Patriots off at their own 40 yard line. History shows what happened after that. Tom Brady and crew made 5 plays for 37 yards to setup an Adam Vinatieri 41 yard field goal and Pats win the Superbowl 32 to 29.
My own exaggerated enmity of Kasay is not entirely based on that night in Texas. It has nothing at all to do with the man himself. It has been about the future of John and this organization. Kasay is the last original Panther. Kasay is the all time points leader in franchise history. He has been a key component to many of the victories this team has had. He is a former pro-bowl kicker. He is a member of the Panthers 10 year team. He is the starting kicker in my money fantasy football league. On a daily basis, I have been cool with John. However John is also the prototype NFL player to the Richardson family. He is a devout Christian. He is heavily involved with the community and his family. Based on both his longevity with the team, countless clutch victories, return from major injuries and overall respect and adoration from the Carolina fans it goes without saying that in some storage room at Bank of America stadium there are a bunch of big black letters that spell out J-O-H-N K-A-S-A-Y just waiting to be hung up on the stadium's ring of honor. I would also wager that there is some mold being fabricated to place his likeness forever on the Stonewall street sidewalk after John puts his cleats in the attic. This has been the root cause of my Kasay anxiety since that terrible kickoff in the winter of 04.
I always believed that John needed to have some momentous game to erase that memory. In my mind it was the game winning kick in an upcoming Superbowl. However in retrospect that is setting the bar a little too high. It takes a lot more than a kicker to make it to the Superbowl. It probably starts with a quarterback who does not fumble the ball everytime he is touched and works it way from there, but I digress. Turns out that John's big event came yesterday in the sweltering central Florida sun. While most of the team was hot and cold for much of the day and let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers erase a solid 17-0 lead, John Kasay was spot on from long distance all day long. Kicks of 51, 50, 49 and 46 yards. All under intense pressure with the game on the line and John delivered them all like the Sunday paper. Tampa coach Jon Gruden had the days best quotes about John's performance
"Let's talk about Kasay, lets not send him any Christmas cards this year."
'What a performance!"
"It was a precision effort by Kasay"
"I don't like that guy. I do not like John Kasay. He has killed me before and he got me today"
His effort in Tampa Bay was not the single Superbowl winning kick heard around the world that I dreamed up. John's contribution was actually a little more heroic. It was a full day of focus and hard work that saved the Panthers season for another week. For this John has earned my forgiveness of the thing in Houston. And if anyone over in the Panthers organization needs a hand in hanging up those letters on the ring after John's calls it quits, just give me a call and I will be right over...